It is always such an honor to be invited to judge a storytelling festival!

This was my second stint as judge at the Kanoon festival and I can’t believe how different an experience it was from the first time!

One person came up to me, I think it was an Iranian administrator or something, and they said that they’d seen me sitting quietly waiting for something or another and I just looked so peaceful. And then they said that a person who is peaceful has come to ‘know themselves’ and I sat there looking at the person thinking, ‘wow, how very wise’.

And I asked myself, “Do I know myself?” and I answered, “Yes, I think I finally do.”

It was a moment of clarity, and on the long long long flight back, I happened to watch Kung Fu Panda 3, which I must have enjoyed but somehow didn’t remember what it was about, and lo and behold, it was also about ‘knowing oneself’. And I wondered if Allah subhanahu wata ala was trying to tell me something. And yes, I think He is.

It tends to only happen when you’re older, when you’ve come to terms with disappointment. When you are so very young the whole world is filled with possibilities, don’t they keep telling you that at school? That you can be anything??? And as you grow you realize, no, you can’t be everything.

For example, as much as I might love the game and as much as I might try, I cannot be an NBA basketball star. I’m NOT tall enough, I’m way too fat, I’m not fast enough, heck, I’m not fast at all! I can’t dribble…you get the picture.

So what’s wrong with watching from the sidelines?

And some might say that it’s a diversion, that sports are filled with arbitrary things, that each team is composed of mercenaries who are playing on behalf of the highest bidder, yada yada yada, and they’d be right, but at the same time it’s an innocent diversion, it allows you to relax and just get caught up in a game for a while.

There’s nothing wrong with that as long as you don’t invest too much of yourself in it, everything in moderation.

Some might call stories a diversion too. And yet they make our lives richer.

When desperately poor people get a bit of extra coin, you know what they spend it on? Not necessities like soap and a better home. They’ll go see a movie, a story in film form, because they can escape the dreariness of their lives for a little while.

Stories give their souls sustenance, hope enough to keep them going, till the next time they find themselves with a bit of extra coin.

Who says they’re not important???

And it’s so refreshing to see how seriously people in Iran take their storytelling!

So I was there, in Iran, in the moment, away from all my normal cares and worries, and I had not invested too much of myself, I was there to learn, to soak up all I could gain from the experience, all I could learn from the opportunity.

I kept remembering all the people I’d met last time, quiet shy Anna Sophia from Portugal who won the competition, bowling us over with her powerful stage presence and the strength of her voice! Mama Tok, from Malaysia who surprised everyone with her puppetry and colorful characterizations, who came in second, and Roger Jenkins who came in third. And then there was the Kenyan lady, her name escapes me, who was so wonderful, I insisted we had to break the rules and make her win too! That was back in February of 2013.

I was five years older this time.

This is my biography on the Kanoon webpage. Isn’t all the Farsi text cool?

اجراهای دومین روز بیستمین جشنواره‌ی بین‌المللی قصه‌گویی کانون

Me watching the stage intensely!!!

Here’s a link to some photos from the festival!

On Wednesday January 24th 2018 I did a workshop for Kanoon.

آموزش و پرورش مدرن روی ادبیات سرمایه‌گذاری می‌کند

The pretty girl on the left is my translator Elaheh Hematian! I used her in a story we composed on the spot, an exercise I use to teach teachers how to teach story structure. I was teaching them beginning, middle and end and I also used my Big Red Lollipop story to emphasize the lesson plan.

They’re watching my antics on stage! At one point I had them laughing out loud!!!!

Here’s the page that talks about the workshop and the other professor who shared his thoughts as well:

And now for the winners of the competition!!!!

The third place winner of the International Festival of Storytelling was John Titi Namai from Kenya who had us all chanting Chagoa Rafiki fiki Chagoa Rafiki! It was a story about choosing your friends wisely!

مراسم پایانی بیستمین جشنواره‌ی بین‌المللی قصه‌گویی کانون

Second place went to Parisa Sedaei Azar who told an Iranian version of King Lear! Amazing!!!

مراسم پایانی بیستمین جشنواره‌ی بین‌المللی قصه‌گویی کانون

And Ta! Da! the winner! Brazilian storyteller Barbara Amaral who did a brilliant Brazilian rendition of a classic Simple Jack story called Juan Luto!


مراسم پایانی بیستمین جشنواره‌ی بین‌المللی قصه‌گویی کانون

And here’s more pictures of the final award ceremony!

More on my thoughts and observations later!